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Mapping Prisoner Reentry

An Action Research Guidebook

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Document date: September 30, 2005
Released online: September 30, 2005

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

Note: This report is also available in the Portable Document Format (PDF).

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Executive Summary

The Reentry Mapping Network (RMN) is a partnership among community-based organizations and the Urban Institute designed to create community change through the mapping and analysis of neighborhood- level data related to prisoner reentry. RMN partners collect and analyze local data related to incarceration, reentry, and community well-being; develop policy options based on the findings; and document their accomplishments and lessons learned. This guidebook provides information on how to understand and address prisoner reentry at the community le vel through mapping and analysis. It describes the concepts and methods underlying the RMN so that other jurisdictions can learn from these experiences in the interests of crafting more effective and successful reentry strategies in their communities. The key steps to doing so are highlighted below.

Identifying stakeholders – Reentry mapping partnerships must include stakeholders with expertise in mapping community level data, as well as stakeholders with backgrounds in dealing with the critical prisoner reentry issues in the community.

Setting research priorities and identifying key issues – Reentry mapping partnerships typically involve collecting and mapping data while convening stakeholders and planning programmatic and public policy changes for their community. To keep these activities coordinated, stakeholders should agree on a common set of priorities early on in the process, and review them together on an ongoing basis.

Obtaining corrections data – Data about former prisoners are typically available from the state Department of Corrections (DOC). In order to obtain the data, however, reentry mapping partners will likely have to make arrangements to ensure the confidentiality of this sensitive data. In addition, developing a good working relationship with the DOC is crucial to receiving continued assistance in interpreting and using the data.

Obtaining contextual data – Additional contextual data about communities, including basic demographic and economic data, are relatively easy to access from local research institutions or the U.S. Census. More detailed local data, especially information about community assets, can be obtained from other organizations or by conducting a data collection project.

Creating maps – Maps depicting the concentration of released prisoners in communities are the foundation of reentry mapping partnerships. In order for maps to be useful to stakeholders, they must meet a set of criteria designed to ensure that they communicate effectively and are easy to interpret.

Sharing maps with stakeholders – Reviewing maps with stakeholders prior to their release will help ensure that these maps meet the needs of the reentry mapping partnership.

Using analysis results to inform action – As maps are produced, the reentry mapping partnership must come to a common understanding of the key findings resulting from the analysis and the necessary actions based on those findings.

Creating a sustainable reentry mapping partnership – Reentry mapping partnerships that rely on a broad base of stakeholder participation are well positioned to leverage the data they collect and the relationships they establish to continue their work on addressing reentry challenges in their communities.

Note: This report is also available in the Portable Document Format (PDF).



Topics/Tags: | Cities and Neighborhoods | Crime/Justice


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